Emma Harman, Toronto-based Registered Psychotherapist
2 min read
What to Expect from Couples Counseling
One of the scariest things for a couple is recognizing the need for marriage/couples counselling. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a sign of failure but of strength. Every couple experiences conflict, and sometimes we need some support navigating that conflict. Initiating this process can be nerve-racking, as many don’t exactly know what couples counselling is, and depictions in the media can be misleading.
Here are some pointers to help you know what to expect from couples counselling:
1. The first two sessions consist of information gathering. It is important for your therapist to take some time to understand your history as a couple, your individual stories, and how the two of you communicate. It’s essential to understand the major contributing factors as to why you decided to come for therapy.
2. Additionally your therapist will ask you about your childhood history and what your other relationships are like. This information is necessary because how we learn to be in relationships can be traced back to how we learned to relate to others in the past. This will help you to recognize what your tendencies are in relationships and where they come from. These insights assist in gaining a mutual understanding between you and your partner.
3. Your therapist is not there to settle arguments or take sides. A therapist’s goal is to teach you how to communicate more effectively. Many couples have the same type of fight, it’s just about different subjects. Couples counselling is more about understanding your pattern of communication, your emotions and dynamics, and not about who is “right or wrong”.
4. Couples counselling is an experiential process. The therapist will counsel you on how to have less discussions about the content of what the fight is about, and more about your emotions and needs and how to express them effectively. Various communication styles will be presented and practiced in session to assist in creating a new dynamic between the two of you. For example, your therapist may ask you to turn to your partner and tell them how you’ve been feeling about them. Initially this can feel a little awkward and forced, but the idea is to create emotional connection through effective communication that you can then take with you outside of session.
5. It is a safe space to hear and to be heard. It can be helpful to have an objective third party to ask questions, foster a safe space and help with difficult conversations.
6. Don’t worry, we won’t ever tell you if you should break up or not, but if the two of you come to that conclusion, that is okay too.